No progress re­ported in Pence-led shut­down talks

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - News - BY CATHERINE LUCEY, LISA MAS­CARO AND JILL COLVIN

WASHINGTON

White House of­fi­cials and con­gres­sional aides kicked off weekend talks aimed at ending a par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down that has dragged into a 15th day.

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, who led the con­ver­sa­tion, de­scribed Satur­day’s ses­sion as “pro­duc­tive” on Twit­ter, al­though no break­through was reached. The White House aides and Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can staffers planned to re­turn to the talks on Sun­day.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions have been at an im­passe over Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­mands for $5.6 bil­lion to fund a wall at the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der.

A White House of­fi­cial said the meet­ing in­cluded a brief­ing on bor­der se­cu­rity by Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen. Democrats re­stated their re­quest to re­open gov­ern­ment while bor­der se­cu­rity talks con­tinue, which the White House re­jected. Democrats also sought writ­ten details on Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity needs, which the White House said it would pro­vide.

Trump, who did not at­tend the dis­cus­sions, spent the morn­ing tweet­ing about bor­der se­cu­rity.

Trump de­clared – with­out cit­ing ev­i­dence – that most fed­eral work­ers are Democrats. He also asserted: “I want to stop the Shut­down as soon as we are in agree­ment on Strong Bor­der Se­cu­rity! I am in the White House ready to go, where are the Dems?”

One Demo­crat, Mary­land Sen. Chris Van Hollen, said in his party’s weekly ra­dio ad­dress that the shut­down “is part of a larger pattern of a pres­i­dent who puts his per­sonal whims and his ef­fort to score po­lit­i­cal points be­fore the needs of the Amer­i­can peo­ple. … He is point­ing fin­gers at ev­ery­one but him­self.”

Trump and Demo­cratic lead­ers met for roughly two hours Fri­day, but gave dif­fer­ing ac­counts of the ses­sion. Democrats re­ported lit­tle progress; Trump framed the weekend talks as a key step for­ward.

As the shut­down drags on, some Republicans are grow­ing in­creas­ingly ner­vous. Some GOP sen­a­tors up for re-elec­tion in 2020, in­clud­ing Cory Gard­ner of Colorado and Su­san Collins of Maine, have voiced dis­com­fort with the shut­down in re­cent days. Sen. Thom Til­lis of North Carolina penned an op-ed for The Hill, ar­gu­ing that Congress should end the shut­down and make a deal on bor­der se­cu­rity and im­mi­gra­tion changes.

In call­ing on Trump to re­open gov­ern­ment while ne­go­ti­a­tions on bor­der se­cu­rity con­tinue, Democrats have em­pha­sized fam­i­lies un­able to pay bills due to ab­sent pay­checks. But Trump has re­peat­edly said he will not budge with­out money for the wall.

Trump asserted Fri­day he could de­clare a na­tional emer­gency to build the wall with­out con­gres­sional ap­proval, but would first try a “ne­go­ti­ated process.” Trump pre­vi­ously de­scribed the si­t­u­a­tion at the bor­der as a “na­tional emer­gency” be­fore he sent ac­tive-duty troops; crit­ics de­scribed that as a pre-elec­tion stunt.

Trump said the fed­eral work­ers who are fur­loughed or work­ing with­out pay would want him to “keep go­ing” and fight for bor­der se­cu­rity. Asked how peo­ple would man­age with­out a fi­nan­cial safety net, he said: “The safety net is go­ing to be hav­ing a strong bor­der be­cause we’re go­ing to be safe.”

Democrats ex­pressed skep­ti­cism Fri­day that there would be a break­through.

“It’s very hard to see how progress will be made un­less they open up the gov­ern­ment,” said Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Trump con­firmed to re­porters that he pri­vately told Democrats, in the Fri­day meet­ing with con­gres­sional lead­ers, that the shut­down could drag on for “months or even years.”

A va­ri­ety of strate­gies are be­ing floated in­side and out­side the White House. Among them is the idea of trad­ing wall money for a deal on im­mi­grants brought to the coun­try as young peo­ple and now here il­le­gally, But Trump made clear dur­ing his news con­fer­ence that talk on DACA, the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, would have to wait.

IN CALL­ING ON TRUMP TO

RE­OPEN GOV­ERN­MENT WHILE NE­GO­TI­A­TIONS ON BOR­DER SE­CU­RITY CON­TINUE, DEMOCRATS HAVE EM­PHA­SIZED FAM­I­LIES UN­ABLE TO PAY BILLS DUE TO AB­SENT PAY­CHECKS. BUT TRUMP HAS RE­PEAT­EDLY SAID HE WILL NOT BUDGE WITH­OUT MONEY FOR THE WALL.

ALEX BRAN­DON AP

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, left, and oth­ers walk down the steps of the Eisen­hower Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice build­ing af­ter an in­con­clu­sive meet­ing Satur­day with staff mem­bers of House and Se­nate lead­ers of both par­ties.

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